PREMIER LEAGUE stars could be forced into RETIREMENT due to the demands of modern football.
This comes from the fact that some players could appear in a possible 76 GAMES into the 2022-23 season, which begins tonight.
Stars who reach the finals of the Europa League or Europa Conference League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Winter World Cup midway through the season face an excruciating workload.
Arsenal and Manchester United, England’s Europa League representatives, will play six group matches. If they finish second, they will play a knockout round before the quarters, semi-finals and final.
So that could mean 15 European matches until the final in Budapest on May 31.
Combined with 38 Premier League appearances, six in the Carabao Cup, eight in the FA Cup, seven in the World Cup and two more internationals, that’s a staggering total of 76.
That would equate to one match, on average, every four days for the next ten months for players like Bukayo Saka or Harry Maguire.
West Ham, who are England’s representative in the Europa Conference League, have a home and away game this month to qualify for the group stages.
Declan Rice is banned for the first two European games but Jarrod Bowen, now an England international, could in theory complete the Hammers’ 76-game horror schedule.
For the majority of the Three Lions squad who are in the Champions League, the possible tally is 74 – winning both European play-offs.
And it’s certainly more realistic for Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden.
And the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has warned the physical and mental toll could see careers cut short as a result.
Maheta Molango revealed that the members have already raised their concerns with Fifa.
He told the Telegraph: “I don’t know if football is ready in the sense that these discussions took place with the players last season and the most important topic that was discussed was the schedule.
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“These discussions took place with the players last season and the biggest topic discussed was the schedule.
“Does the industry realize what is at stake here? Do they realize that these guys aren’t machines?
“They make money, yes, but they can’t give that much. Yes, they are privileged.
“Yes, they are honored to be paid well for doing what they love.
“SOME PLAYERS ARE IN DIFFICULTY”
“But they are not supermen.
“Some players are struggling. On the one hand, you have to take care of them, and on the other, take care of the product.
“Let’s not forget that this period is still coming on the back of Covid.
“Our concern is that last season was already intense due to the circumstances (with the season ending later in 2019-20). Then there were internationals in June who extended last season even further.”
Jurgen Klopp has been one of the most vocal Premier League managers campaigning desperately for a reduction in the busy football schedule to protect players.
He reiterated in March: “We want to see, at their peak, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing all the time.
“But it’s actually not possible without getting injured or getting lucky. You can prepare for the best, [but] in the end it’s really hard.
“Among contact sports, football is the only sport without respite for players.
“We just have to make sure we’re really protecting the most important ingredients in this game – and that’s the players and no one else.”